Six on Saturday – Watches

Snake's head fritillery

This may be rushed.  Again.  I’ll tell you why.

The strap on one of my watches came apart so I asked OH, AKA Glue Monitor, to fix it for me.  I don’t have many watches, just three.  You may think that is a lot.  I suppose you only really need one.  My three perform different roles in my life, apart from telling the time, that is.  One is a work watch, it has a large dial so I know when it is coffee time without putting my specs on and I can press my nose to my client’s window and dribble as way of a hint.  It was also embarrassingly cheap so it doesn’t matter too much if I compost it by mistake.  My second watch is my goth watch, a black-faced, black strapped Swatch, for my moody moments which are few but intense.  My third is a Fossil watch, bought in an outlet store for a fraction of the retail price and is my favourite.  It is my favourite because it has embroidered flowers on the strap.  It was this very strap that needed mending.  Anyone still awake?  The fact is this watch was still resident at the in-house menders meaning that it didn’t spring forward last weekend with the rest of the timepieces in the house.  And today I have been wearing that very same, now fixed, watch.  Which means that all day I have been running on Greenwich Mean Time instead of British Summer Time.  This in turn means I have one less hour than I thought to cram all the things I had earmarked to do this afternoon before cocktail hour.   I know another excuse.  At least I have turned up.  And our very own Time Lord, The Propmaster,  won’t need a lie down as he does on the rare occasions that I’m early.

Less wittering more plants!  Firstly we have a not quite open snake’s head fritillary, Fritillaria meleagris.  These play “will they, won’t they” each year and then seemingly over night, and usually a little nibbled, they appear.  When I say “they” I mean three.  They never seem to multiple like you hear in fairytales.

Salix gracilistyla ‘Melanostachys’

Next is a great joy to me, the strong and healthy roots of the most wonderful and doomy Salix gracilistyla ‘Melanostachys’ or the black willow .  These cuttings were sent to me by my friend Chloris after I admired the puma paws of one in her garden.  They have been sitting in a cup of water for a couple of weeks and voilà.   Read more about it here: The Blooming Garden – Six on Saturday 2nd March.   When admiring this willow I shall be wearing my black Swatch.

Now it is time for a fat and hairy potato sprout.  You may well remember, as I am prone to over-sharing about my personal life, that every year I buy OH some chitting potatoes for either his birthday or Valentine’s Day.   I usually buy Rocket, but for a change I thought this time he could try Charlotte.  I’m wild like that.  Each year he plants them and tends to them in a completely different way as to how I would do it.  But they are his.  I will not interfere.  I will not even give my opinion, I have tried before and it has fallen on stony ground.  But it is wrong.   Unfortunately it works.


What next?  Oh yes, the fresh young leaves of one of our acers.   A little burnt by the wind, but all the same a beautiful sight.   All our Japanese maples are named Woolworth, as it is here that we bought them, many moon ago, and very well they have served us too.  I still miss Woolworths.


On to blueberry flowers, blushing bells all primed to provide a handful of fruit for a summer treat.

Dahlia 'Peggy's Pearler'

Lastly, I am pleased to announce that Peggy is back!  Has she arrived in South Wales yet Mr K? For any of you who don’t know who Peggy is and why I should be so excited at her return, then you can find out all about it here: It Is All In The Name.

All done, double checked my numbers, and I’m all linked out.  I cannot linger, that Moscow Mule won’t drink itself!





Perfect Parcel

Who doesn’t love to get home from a hard day at the coal face to find that your previously ordered plants have arrived?   I have heard tell that are some strange folk out there who wouldn’t get quite as excited as me, but this could be apocryphal.  A parcel is a wonderful thing and one containing horticultural jewels is even better.

This cardboard box arrived today from Fibrex Nurseries, it contains three different ferns, an abutilon, a correa and a grewia (no me neither).   The plants are healthy and generous in size, they were packed immaculately wrapped in newspaper and bedded in shredded paper.   Not a piece of plastic in sight.  Great service, great ethos.   Just perfect.



It seemed like a brilliant idea.

“Let’s make a flower bed in the middle of the lawn.  More colour, less mowing.  There will be plenty left if you ever fancy a game of crochet.”   A perfect plan, not just perfect, inspired.

“We’ll pile the sods in corner a few meters away and when it has rotted down in 18 months time it will have transformed into a lovely loamy top soil that we can use around the garden where necessary.  Sorry?  What did you say?  A change of plan?  You want the turf transported up the steep and slippery gravel path, past two encroaching and especially prickly holly bushes, across more gravel at the front of The Hall, through the gate and beyond to reclothe the tatty lawn by the herb beds? ”  Admittedly this would involve more work, but still it was a great idea, two jobs completed in one foul swoop, can’t argue with that.  Let’s get going.

“The wheel barrow has a flat tyre?”  Fine, we’ll fill the trug, attach it to the sack truck and pull it up the slope.

“The sack truck has two flat tyres”.  Silence.

“But we have another sack truck”.  Result!

Fast forward through 7 hours of turf removal, turf transporting, turf laying, carrying bags of compost and sand down the slippery slope, digging, ball throwing, extraction of two full barrows of buried broken bricks and concrete that had to be pushed on the flat tyred barrow to their resting place, edge laying and, phew, the job was complete.  We were broken.  But we did it.  We created an elliptical bed, much larger than it appears in the photo below but I didn’t have the energy to walk the 10m required for a better view-point.  They said it couldn’t be done.  We showed them.

Now for the planting.  The good bit.



This is the season of the striptease.  Teeth grindingly chilly in the morning, warranting thick jumpers and substantial socks.  By early afternoon the sun is blasting requiring a peeling of layers until decency dictates a halt.

I’m not complaining.  The jolting icy air is as effective as smell salts to invigorate the sluggish gardener, the later gentle warmth carresses the muscles and boosts the batteries.

Tomorrow we have rain.  I will have to depend on my reserves.


Lachenalia quadricolor

Yesterday I attended, along with Hero and OH, the local Plant Heritage lecture day and lunch at Marwood Hill Gardens.   I listened intently, notebook in hand, to talks on scented shrubs and later about botanising in Madagascar.   I even remembered to pack my specs so I could actually see the slide show.   I wandered around the garden for a meagre hour, enjoying bluebells and magnolias.   I scoffed my lunch, including a rather fine mixed fruit crumble and custard, and made new acquaintances.  I possibly heckled the Officer in Charge of Raffle Drawing and then won two books (one on rhodies and one about growing fruit.  All rather wonderful.  But before all this had begun, there was another important job to be completed.  Yes, you’ve guess it, shopping!  In true plant hunter style I tasered the opposition and perused the fine wares on the plant table.

The result of which is that I have bought another inappropriate plant.  There was no deception involved, I knew just what I was buying.  I have killed one before.  Lachenalia quadricolor, the four-coloured opal flower.  Its natural habitat is in crevices of granite outcrops throughout the Western Cape of South Africa.  And it will not tolerate frost.  What could possibly go wrong?  But just look at it, surely not one of you could have resisted!?

I may also have bought a trillium.

Six on Saturday – Sun God

Anemone 'Bordeaux'

I am expecting great things from our band of SoSers this week.  Specifically the UK department.  Unfortunately we must exclude residents of the subgroup The Western Isles.   Something very strange has happened.  IT HASN’T RAINED FOR A WHOLE WEEK, NOT AT ALL, NOT ONE DROP!   If you find this hard to believe, and I wouldn’t blame you, pop over to our very own Sun God Prop’s site and read all about it yourself.  And at the same time you can console any contributors from Stornoway where there is aways a rain cloud lurking.  I possibly exaggerate.

To begin with we have Anemone coronaria ‘Bordeaux’.   I planted these in the same pot as Hedychium ‘Pradhani’ once it had died down for the season.   Succession planting, extremely grown up.  Little did I know quite how wonderful the blooms would be.  The first blue bossed, deepest burgundy flower literally stopped me in my tracks when I spotted it earlier in the week.

Next we have a crocus with its violet veins on the palest lilac background.   It has a name.  It is a secret.


Now the new foliage of one of our apple trees.   Look at the vibrant lime green leafettes with the softest indumentum, everything at this time of year begs close examination and praise.  Come on apple tree do your best or I will chop you down!

On to Pelargonium cordifolium var. rubrocinctum which has spent the winter outside tucked in a corner, with the barest wisp of a covering when absolutely undeniable.   Flowers are on the way, along with some new leaves.   Much tougher (apparently) than you would imagine.

What lies beneath?  When I tipped Potentilla ‘Brohna’ out of her pot to settle into the garden, I found that the base was being used as doss house for all manner and size of slugs.  They hadn’t nibbled this plant but I imagine they nipped out at night for general rabble rousing and munching away from their own doorstep.  Do not fear, they will nibble no more.

Lastly Tulipa ‘Blue Diamond’.  How the mighty have fallen!  It wasn’t long ago that I was coo-cooing over this tulip, it had prime position outside the back door, and its every wish was catered for.  Now it is languishing up by the barely standing shed, the pot overtaken by oregano and residence of the horse’s head.  It is still not blue, but it was forgiven for this misdemeanour a long time ago. Exile was harsh punishment.

All done for another week, may the sun continue to warm our hearts.


Tail End

It started well.  A drive in the early morning sun as Exmoor looms large in the distance is rarely a chore.   Arriving at The Mantles Estate my civet poo coffee was freshly brewed and only slightly less warm than my welcome.  The twin magnolias battled to outdo each other’s beauty.   Sparrows squabbled over prime real estate in the meld of clematis/wisteria.  All was well in the world.

Lord Mantle is on a mission.  It is called “tame the iris in the pond”. This Iris pseudoacorus, innocently planted several years ago, has become a island, so large the resident frogs recently declared independence from the Principality of Kemacott.   This behaviour cannot be tolerated, these flags need to be culled.  Too large to manhandle, His Lordship had a cunning plan.  He bought a winch.  Are warning bells ringing?  They should be.

As we worked on our own jobs in the garden, myself and Her Ladyship were on high alert, ready to assist when needed.   Which we were.  We pulled, we pushed, we gave advice that was very well received (fib), we used broom handles and scaffolding planks as levers, we returned to our duties as necessary.  The chief engineer was patient and methodical.  “Can you just pull on this strap?”  he asked in his pretty please voice.   “Of course” I replied “It would be an honour”.

Really I should sue.  Look at their faces of concern.

I had an extra cheese roll at lunch time.  It seems it is more important than ever to pad out my tail end.   My amble posterior saved me once again.